Saturday, January 05, 2008


Balls as Good as his Name

Andrew Porter's interview with Ed Balls today in the Telegraph is a useful primer for engaging in the seasonal past-time of looking into the future. As a Brown sceptic from way back, I've never been a fan of the allegedly brilliant former Treasury minister. Bower's biography of Gordon points at Balls as the source of quite a bit of negative briefing and some inside sources have suggested he was the most gung ho of Brown's trio of close advisers who led Brown to misjudge that snap election rescinded on 6th October, a date that may come to rival the Tories' Black Wednesday in terms of its negative impact on a party's fortunes.

And yet, according to Balls, I'm way off target here. In his interview, he agrees Brown's fortunes rose and fell precipitously but does not include the non-election as a contributory reason: it hardly happened, it would seem:

"You can talk about cancelled elections until the cows come home, but no one out there is. It has not been a big issue for the public. I don't think it will have any impact on the general election result in a year-and-a-half's time."

Maybe Ed is right- and I hope he is- but my feeling is that the 'election that never was' marked the crucial error from which much else has flowed, not least Brown's surrender to Cameron, any aspiration to shine at PMQs. Black Wednesday was the kiss of death for the Tories, even though most people did not understand the complex economics behind it. On October 6th most people did understand Brown had blundered and was then offering bogus reasons as excuses rather than accept that his own poll based calculations had crashed and burned.

This may be slightly fanciful, but if politics is like a game, that mistake, for me, was like a missed penalty which takes the wind out the team and somehow causes all kinds of subsequent missed chances and own goals. I just hope Labour has clicked back into harmony within the 18 months Balls says we have until the election is due.

Hi Bill, Just added you to my new blog feed reader. Keep up the good work.
Balls is being totally disingenuous about the election. He knows it was a turning point for Brown but is refusing to admit it because the whole fuck-up was basically his (and Dougie Aleaxander's) fault!

As I recall, Balls made little attempt at the time to conceal the fact that he was pushing for an early election. During the Labour conference week, he went on the radio and openly speculated about whether "the gamble" really lay in going to the country now, or later, clearly implying that he felt the bigger risk lay in delaying.

What Gordon should have done is firmly closed down the election speculation in his own conference speech, at a point at which Labour were miles ahead. I suspect the reason he didn't is because he spends too much time listening to Balls talking balls.
I agree with Paul, the mistake was to give the Conservatives a clean conference, where under the threat of an election, they pulled together into a cohesive party. The strategists forgot that keeping the Tory party fighting internally was their biggest opportunity.

There is no way Balls or anyone else can publically admit the mistake, though - I don't think we should blame them or be surprised for the kind of answer Balls gave in the interview
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